Contemporary Native Artist Jeffrey Gibson

We’ve been looking into the works of Native Americans in class recently, and it brought my mind back to an artist who instructed me in France last semester. His name is Jeffrey Gibson. He is a big man with an even bigger attitude. He was very helpful for me in his instruction because he always kept the discussion frank. I remember he once said about my dislike of the gallery system that “You have this thing where you hate galleries but like them, but nobody cares.” His works are visually arresting. I will tell you all a bit about one of my favorite projects of his, as they relate to the final subject matter of our class.

The work I want to mention was shown at the Aldridge Gallery in Connecticut in 2008 as part of a show entitled “No Reservations: Native American History and Culture in Contemporary Art” Curated by Richard Klein. As viewers approached the building they were confronted with a relief sculpture thousands of pounds in weight made of silicone mounted to the side of the Gallery. There were multi-colored bands and groups of silicone, but the majority of the piece was black, in one big amorphous shape. In speaking with the artist, he told me that the basis of the project was his desire to put a big thumb-shaped smear on the perfectly white barn-like wall. He was interested in the gentile culture of Connecticut. The historical significance of Connecticut as an original colony that had a large hand in developing the Federalist system of government allowed for the site to become the most important aspect of the work, in my opinion. Without the context of a political epicenter which propagated, directly or indirectly, the disenfranchisement of Natives as Western Expansion captured the American consciousness, the smudge would be only a smudge. Technologically and materially, the piece is very contemporary. Putting a huge, heave relief like this one onto the side of the building is impressive, and the scale is important for his message.

jeffrey gibson at the Aldridge gallery in Connecticut

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